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News - Youth For Understanding USA

Latest news about Youth for Understanding USA student exchange programs worldwide – Events – Partnerships.

Filtering by Tag: study abroad

Celebrating our Founder and the Volunteer Spirit

Rachel Arnold Cooper


Excerpt from 1986 interview with Rachel Andresen.

Our Founder and inspiration, Dr. Rachel Andresen, would’ve been 112 today! It is also the beginning of National Volunteer Week. Rachel looked at YFU as an organization that grew from the strong interest in the family. The exchange program spread from family to family and from community to community and around the world.

YFU has succeeded as a family-based organization, as well as a volunteer based organization, “because giving and sharing is close to the hearts of people. Families initially take students to give something, and then they receive so much more than they give. Their family life is enriched, their knowledge of the world expanded and their appreciate of another country and of its people increased,” said Dr. Andresen.

Of YFU volunteers, Dr. Andresen said they are part of the organization “because they love people and have a real concern for others. The people involved in the program are on a real grassroots level of the operation, and they are an invaluable resource."

“Volunteers are basic to YFU, its operation and its continuation. We couldn't operate our program without volunteers not one day in the year.”

No matter what role one plays in the youth exchange experience, the opportunities are shared by everyone, according to Dr. Andresen. “This program is an opportunity for an expression of the idealistic part of our own mind. It’s an opportunity for us to give the very best of what we are and to share that with somebody else.”

Love, Curiosity, and Kindness

Rachel Arnold Cooper

"Love, curiosity, and kindness make it a great one." 

That's what Elisabeth Egel says about the planet we all share since experiencing life in the United States on her exchange program from Estonia.

Hosted by the Whatley family in Armada, MI, Elisabeth has gone above and beyond the requirements of her U.S. Department of State-sponsored FLEX scholarship. She is excelling academically while enrolled in Advanced Placement History and Honors English classes. Required to give one presentation about her country; Elisabeth has completed seven, which included slides, music, dance lessons, and sweet treats (photo top left). A trained classical pianist, Elisabeth is now learning jazz and 20th-Century compositions, thanks to the piano the Whatley family rented for her. "With the help of my coaches and classmates, I have run in several 5K cross country meets, one of which involved running through a stream and a lot of mud," said Elisabeth. She even led the Whatley family dog through an agility course with the help of an instructor.

What makes Elisabeth's program so exceptional? She is totally blind.

Elisabeth said, "When I found out that I had a chance to go to the United States...I was not sure if I had the strength and independence that this step required." She found the perfect host parent in Evon Whatley. "Elisabeth is totally blind and I grew up with both blind parents so this was not a problem, in fact, I was quite comfortable and confident in meeting her needs," said Evon.

Elisabeth reflected on her past six months and said, "I feel the core values of people are similar and that is what keeps the whole world together." Evon said, "We remind Elisabeth to never stop trying or dreaming, my quote to her is 'The Sky Is The Limit And There Is No Limit To The Sky'. We love her dearly."

Learn more about opening your heart and home to an international exchange student and becoming a host family.

Find out more about the Future Leaders of Exchange (FLEX) program sponsored by US Department of State.

Have Study Abroad Questions? We Can Help!

Jennifer McKendree

Pop into one of our Virtual Information Nights (VINs) and have your study abroad questions answered LIVE!  Events feature YFU USA alumni, registration staff, and partner country participants to give you a first hand perspective on the application process AND what you might expect to experience once you reach your study abroad destination.

Study Abroad Session:

  • Tuesday, Feb 5, 9:00 PM- 10:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Thursday, Feb 21, 8:00 PM- 9:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Monday, Mar 4, 9:00 PM- 10:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

  • Tuesday, Mar 12, 8:00 PM- 9:00 PM EST- Topic TBD

Registration for all VIN sessions may be found via the following link:

Convincing your parents to let you study abroad

Jennifer McKendree

Maybe you've heard about it at school, maybe one or more of your friends have done it, but however you found out about a study abroad program, and then decided it's what you want to do, there is one more hurdle to jump over. And it can be a big one: Your parents. To them, it means you're traveling across the globe alone to live with a family they've never met, no matter how good and responsible a student (and child) you are. For any parent, it's a terrifying proposition. Here are some ways to calm their fears, build your case and get to "yes."

Do your homework. Before you approach your parents, learn everything there is to know about your program, how long it has been around, how many students and host families it has served, and other facts. Know the process, and outline the resources you'll have in your host country should any need arise.

Investigate scholarships. Youth For Understanding offers 200 full and partial merit-based scholarships and needs-based financial aid to students each year. Find out the eligibility requirements and go into the discussion with your parents armed with those financial facts. Other options exist, too, like GoFundMe campaigns. You can turn fundraising for your study abroad into a powerful learning experience.

Outline your reasons for wanting to study abroad. Guaranteed, the first question they'll ask you is, "Why?" Have your reasons down cold. Is it about learning the language? Cultural immersion? A need to strike out on your own? All of the above? Make sure you can articulate, in clear parent-ish language, why you want to do it. Practice your "why" speech in front of a mirror just like you'd practice for speech class.

One word: Skype. Video chat platforms like Skype, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger can put you in touch with your parents in ways a weekly phone call can't. Let them know you'll report in on a regular basis. You can set a time for a weekly video call, Sunday nights, say, and also leave the door open for spur-of-the-moment calls as well.

It's resume gold. An international education will look very impressive on your resume when the time comes to get a job. It shows skills like independence and self-reliance, and also shows things like maturity and global awareness. Your resume will stand out from the pack, and if your parents are in the corporate world, that will really mean something to them.

Tell them the personal benefits for you. Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that won't come around when you are out of school. Yes, you can always travel, but you're not going to be able to live for a year with a host family while immersing yourself in another culture. It's something you can only get as a student, and it is life-changing. Living in another country will broaden your horizons and allow you see the world from a new perspective. The personal growth trajectory is through the roof. You won't come back the same kid as you were when you left. Also, you'll make friends, including your host family, that you'll keep all of your life.

Lastly, if they have any questions, have them contact us. We're here to help.

Have Study Abroad Questions? Pop in to our Virtual Information Night!

Jennifer McKendree

Pop into our Virtual Information Nights (VIN) and get your study abroad questions answered LIVE!!  This evening’s event will feature our program to Japan with alumni and YFU staff taking your questions.

Study Abroad Session:

  • Thursday, Nov 8, 8:00 PM- 9:00 PM EST

Registration for the Study Abroad sessions can be found via the following link: